Observatory Mesa Natural Area

The City of Flagstaff acquired Observatory Mesa Natural Area in December 2013 with funding from the 2004 voter-approved Open Space bond and a 2013 Arizona State Parks Growing Smarter grant. We welcome you to experience the expansive views and diverse plants and animals found in this 2,251 acre native forest ecosystem. Observatory Mesa serves as an important wildlife corridor for large mammals traveling between the San Francisco Peaks and the Mogollon Rim.

Motorized Access:

Observatory Mesa is a non-motorized area. There are currently two parking areas that allow access to the Mesa, one at Thorpe Park and one along Forest Service Road 515.

Thorpe Park Bark Park:
From downtown Flagstaff, travel north on North Humphries Street and turn left on West Cherry Avenue. When you reach the end of Cherry Avenue, turn right onto North Thorpe Park Road. The parking area will be on the right near the ball fields. From the parking area, you can access Observatory Mesa by taking the F.U.T.S. trail on the west side of North Thorpe Park Road near the disc golf course.

Forest Service Road 515:
From downtown Flagstaff, travel south on South Milton Road. Turn right on Route 66 and travel approximately 4 miles to merge with I-40 West. Take the next exit for A1 Mountain Road. Turn right onto A1 Mountain road, which turns into Forest Road 506. Continue straight onto Forest Road 515 and pass through the Forest Service gate. Please park when you reach the Observatory Mesa kiosk.


Observatory Mesa is a great place to hike, mountain bike, photograph the natural environment, watch wildlife, and experience fall colors. Horseback riding is permitted throughout Observatory Mesa, but are prohibited on the Tunnel Springs Trail. Please do not ride your horse during wet conditions to protect the trails.

Observatory Mesa is open to the public year road. There are no facilities available.

Trail Information:

Trail Name Distance Important Information
Observatory Mesa Trail 1.6 miles Relatively flat, single track trail.
Tunnel Springs Trail 1.9 miles Provides access from Railroad Springs community to Observatory Mesa. A tunnel provides
a safe railroad crossing. Steady ascent to the top of the Mesa.
Mars Hill Trail 1.9 miles Trailhead located at the Thorpe Park Bark Park. Short, steep climb to ascend the Mesa.

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Photo Credit: Tom Bean
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Observatory Mesa is a day-use only area. Camping, campfires, and woodcutting are strictly prohibited.

Motorized travel is limited to Forest Service roads that are designated as "open" on the most recent Motor Vehicle Use Map. You can download a geo-referenced version of the map to your smartphone here.


Observatory Mesa is within Game Management Unit 11M, as designated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Archery and limited shotgun opportunities remain available on Observatory Mesa, if a permit is obtained through AZGFD. However, the use of long-range firearms, including rifles and pistols is prohibited. It is illegal to hunt for deer, elk, pronghorn, or turkeys within 1 per 4 mile of an occupied residence. Motorized retrieval of game is prohibited. Click here to learn more about hunting in Unit 11.


There are no upcoming public events at Observatory Mesa. To set up a volunteer event for your group, contact Robert Wallace at Robert.Wallace@flagstaffaz.gov or 928-213-2154.